House Rules: What Employers Expect from Telecommuting Workers

After years of inching forward in fits and starts, remote work, or telecommuting, is now commonplace in the U.S. employment landscape.

How big? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that about 25% of U.S. employers worked from home either on a full-time or partial basis in 2015. That figure has risen from 19% back in 2003, the BLS notes.

While every company likely has its own unique rules on telecommuting, there are a few uniform standards that each remote staffer needs to adhere to in order to stay effective and be open and accountable to their employers.

"There are many things to consider before an employer adopts a policy to allow employees to work remotely," says Maura Thomas, founder of Regain Your Time, a professional training and consulting firm. "The nature of the job, the skills of the employee, and the management skills of supervisors are all important factors. Employers must have an adequate technology infrastructure, as well as supervisors who have the tools and training to effectively track remote work. A training program for both supervisors and remote workers is also recommended, so everyone understands the company policy, and what is expected of them."

The key for employees is having good productivity habits, as that will keep management satisfied, she adds. "They should also have a dedicated work space at home, and must be able to prioritize well," says Thomas. "Good technology skills are also needed."

To be effective, employees need management to take some productive steps, too - especially before they start working from home. "Employers should set good expectations," says John Gough, owner of Skyhook Interactive, a 12-person web design and development agency in Mesa, Ariz. that encourages telecommuting. "People in the office should know when someone is going to be at their desk and how best to contact them, via Slack, Skype, video conference, text or email. Remote workers should know if they're expected to be on video calls, set good working times and make sure their effectiveness isn't diminished."

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